Deborah Harkness – Time’s Convert

Marcus Whitmore was made a vampire in the eighteenth century. Over two hundred years later, he finds himself in love with Phoebe Taylor, a human who decides to become a vampire herself.

But her transition will prove as challenging now as it was for Marcus when he first encountered Matthew de Clermont, his sire.

While Phoebe is secreted away, Marcus relives his own journey from the battlefields of the American Revolutionary War, through the treachery of the French Revolution to a bloody finale in New Orleans. His belief in liberty, equality and brotherhood challenged at every stage by the patriarchy of the de Clermonts.

What will he and Phoebe discover in one another when they are finally reunited at Les Revenants, beneath the watchful gaze of Matthew and his wife, Diana Bishop?

I absolutely loved Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy, perhaps at the time for me unexpectedly so, and was super excited when I learned about the new book. While I had really been hoping for a Gallowglass book — I loved Gallowglass to pieces — Marcus’ story was one I was curious about as well, so I was happy enough to dive in. Time’s Convert is a semi-standalone; you don’t need to have read the previous books to enjoy it, but it helps to be familiar with the world of the de Clermonts. I have to admit I was a bit hazy on some of the exact details, but we live in this great internet age and the All Souls fandom has created an awesome wikia that cleared all of them right up. 

Time’s Convert is Marcus’ history, but Phoebe’s new beginning. Harkness offers a fascinating look at how vampires are created in this world. It is not an easy transition and definitely a dangerous proposition. If the previous trilogy was about how to learn to be a witch and a weaver, this was about how to become a vampire. The compare-and-contrast between Marcus’ experience and Phoebe’s transition is marked and interesting in and of itself. Where Phoebe’s turning comes after careful deliberation, much debate, and plenty of research, Marcus’ change comes about in a much more tumultuous way and more as a matter of last resort than a conscious, well-informed choice. While Phoebe is literally babied through the process, Marcus has to once again grow up very quickly. That causes him to make a number of bad decisions and to wall away much of his memories and emotions. It will be interesting to see whether Phoebe’s more measured, ritualised approach makes for a smoother development as a vampire.

We learn about Marcus’ history, which had been hinted at previously, in more detail and we also learn more about his position in the family and his character. Diana draws the story out of him as a means to distract him from fretting over Phoebe, but also because she can see there is some serious trauma in his past that is unsettling his current emotional controls. Through his recollections, we learn that Marcus has always been a caring, honest person and that he comes by his medical knowledge honestly and that is was hard won. And that he lived through some of the most tumultuous periods in history that saw gigantic amounts of social change. Both the American Revolution and the French Revolution were boiling points in history and it seems as if the De Clermonts were in it up to their aristocratic eyebrows. From what we learn about the family’s role in history, it seems to be far larger than you’d imagine. While it can seem mightily convenient that they are involved in all of these crucial events and know some of the most influential people in history, if we consider that Philippe De Clermont was one of the most powerful and oldest vampires around, it becomes a little more plausible and less historical name-dropping.

The De Clermont family is filled with incredibly powerful women, who do not let anyone walk over them. Yet despite all of that, the patriarchal nature of the De Clermont family — and vampire society at large — constrains what they can and will do. Diana is really the first one to actively push back on this, mostly because she is literally decades, if not centuries, younger than most of the other women, but also because she is a member of the family, but not a vampire. In some cases it seems that the vampires, being time’s converts, almost automatically take the long view and as such don’t see the need to change the way things are done at all rapidly. It will be interesting to see how Phoebe develops in this regard, as she is a far more modern young woman, but now most definitely a vampire.

Beyond Marcus’ and Phoebe’s tales, we follow the continuing story of Diana, Matthew and their twins, and of what happened to some of the other characters from the original trilogy. We also spend time with Aunt Freya, one of Philip De Clermont’s daughters we hadn’t met before. She was fabulous! I absolutely adored her and I need more Freya in my life. I would love to learn more of her history and how she became a De Clermont. While Gallowglass, my favourite character from the previous books, does make an appearance, he had far too little page-time and I really, really hope (pretty please with a cherry on top) that Harkness decides to write his story next.

Overall, Time’s Convert is a delightful return to the All Souls world and once again showcases Harkness’ talent to mix the supernatural with history into a wonderfully compelling blend. Especially with the television series based on the trilogy airing soon, now is a great time to get into this world and Time’s Convert a great way to do so, without learning too much about what might be in the TV series. Highly recommended.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.